It seems one can't escape from the H1N1 Flu mania while working at a public school here in Korea. I am sure you are sick of hearing the stories and opinions. Probably agreeing with how crazy they overreact here and why can't the citizens of this country practice good hygiene to begin with.
Let's pretend that you are the Principal of a public school. I would suspect your job is to protect the children and staff at your school from this "crazy" virus. What measures would you take?
You could shut down the school till all the sick victims have recovered.
You could give out hand sanitizer bottles to all the classrooms. Make the teachers educate the kids on washing their hands and covering their mouths when they sneeze or cough.
In general it is your duty to protect the health of your pupils and staff so that the learning process can truck on without hindrance.
At my school, from my observation, the Principal has been implementing his Flu prevention program not because he genuinely cares about the student's or the staff's health but for public relations sake.
How do I know? The Principal installed hospital grade hand sanitizer stations in the hallways on every floor in the school. It is an automated device that when you put your hands in they are sprayed with sanitizer. Also he provided every classroom with sanitizer bottles just in case.
But did that stop the virus? Does dousing your hands in sanitizer every chance you get really a way to stop the virus?
Last week 17 kids came down with the virus at our school. Spread out amongst the grades these kids were sent home, and a few classes were told to stay in as well.
Did the school close?
The teachers were told to tell the parents that the school has installed these fancy hand sanitizer gadgets and that their kids would be safe. And that we all wear masks (not true) and wash our hands frequently.
I was told by my coteacher that he installed these gadgets because he wants his school to be the first in the district with them. In other words he is caring more about his image than the actual health of his pupils.
It's pathetic if you asked me, but doesn't come as a surprise. My last day is tomorrow so I don't have to take his hypocrisy anymore.
All in all, though it makes me wonder how many more schools are reacting to this flu thing as a way of boosting their career image. In fact when I think about it I am sure the private schools are using whatever "protective" measures they enlist at their schools as PR campaigns advertised to the mothers. Yet we have to remember that this is how things function here and how they have worked for a long time.
In the end, this is just another cultural difference to add to the pile. It is also one that can't be reasoned with. Like so many cultural differences we expats experience out here many are left like unsolved mysteries. Thankfully and hopefully the leftovers of all this hysteria is a more "germaphobic" society.